Karnataka to initiate debate on heritage tag for Western Ghats

Karnataka to initiate debate on heritage tag for Western Ghats

Karnataka government would initiate a debate on the recently conferred UNESCO heritage tag to ecologically fragile Western Ghats and educate the people about its repercussions on development activities, Forest Minister C P Yogeshwar said today.

Replying to the issue raised by M C Nanaiah (JDS) in the Legislative Council, the minister said the government had written two letters to the UPA Government opposing the tag as it would disrupt lives of people, including tribals, living in the Western Ghats.

Karnataka has been opposing UNESCO declaring 10 spots in the Western Ghats as world heritage sites as it fears this would affect development activities undertaken by the state.

"We have learnt about the heritage tag to Western Ghats through media reports and debates by the experts. But it is a sensitive issue involving possible displacement of the people. Both locals and government have been earnest in conserving the forests in the state," he said.

Raising the issue in the House, Nanaiah said though the government has opposed the tag, it has not "educated" the people on the possible repercussions of bringing Western Ghats under the heritage tag.

"The 1600-km long mountain range of Western Ghats should be conserved as it is the only monsoon rain bearing zone in the country. However, people are unaware of the repercussions of bringing Western Ghats under heritage tag. They have to be educated and the government should draw a plan to see that locals are not affected," he said.
According to the UNESCO, the Western Ghats chain is one of the world's eight "hottest hotspots" of biological diversity.

Two years ago, a UNESCO study team, headed by Dr Wendis and Principal Conservator of Forests Dr Swaminathan had visited Kodagu and Chikmagalur and had to face the ire of locals in Kodagu.

The chain's forests, which are older than the Himalaya mountains influence the Indian monsoon weather pattern. It starts at the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, runs through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and ends at Kanyakumari.

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